A Useless Man: Selected Stories
Sait Faik Abasıyanık
Abasıyanık’s status as a Turkish national treasure is utterly unsurprising. Chekhov-like in his ability to create sweet, poignant moments from the mundane and melancholy, Abasıyanık is able to fashion even a mother’s death into a comforting embrace. While regrets and loss – of a loved one, of a friend, of childhood – are recurrent themes, Abasıyanık’s prose is never heavy-handed, as he expertly invokes the colours, smells and tastes of his native Turkey. Abasıyanık’s impressionistic descriptions of men and boys, be they ‘delicate as lace’ or ‘beautiful and savage’, are particularly evocative. Habitually eschewing plot for atmosphere, memories, and faces, the pieces in A Useless Man can often only loosely be called stories; their endings are as inconclusive as they are satisfying.
Not all aspects of this luminary’s work are cherished. His portrayal of fishermen, labourers, and late-night coffeehouse clientele shed an uncomfortable light on the Turkish class system, which lead to the censorship of his 1952 novel Bir Takım Insanlar. Relationships between these men frequently border on the homoerotic, and offer a compelling and subversive examination of a type of masculinity seldom recognized in Turkey. Abasıyanık’s intimate familiarity with his characters offers a sense of comfort that may obscure the murmurs of a world beyond society’s moral conventions. With this new translation, however, these dim corners may soon come to light.
Words: Mònica Tomàs